Category Archives: Technology

The Newest Flavor Of 3D Printing

I’m fascinated with 3D printing, and have written a number of posts on the topic. There are numerous applications in medicine, and particularly in trauma care. We are currently able to print substitutes for bone, cartilage (trachea), bladder, skin, and more. To date, all of these use the same 2D technology found in ink-jet printers. But instead of 2D splashes of ink, three dimensional bits of plastic or metal are stacked on top of each other one layer at a time and fused by a laser.

UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a new 3D printing technology that coalesces an entire object at once using 3D information projected by shining light fro a standard LED projector into a column containing a special resin. The device has been renamed the “replicator” since it functions like the device seen in various Star Trek series. Here’s a brief video:

Bottom line: This is new technology, so it’s still a bit glitchy. The surface definition is lower than conventional 3D printing, which will limit its usefulness in some medical applications. And currently, the size limit is only four inches. But it will allow printing over existing objects, which may give it some real advantages. I’m sure there’s more to come with this promising new technology.

Related posts:

 

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Best of AAST #7: What’s New With Reboa

Despite all you read about it these days, REBOA is still very new. The first papers describing use in humans are barely 5 years old! A few select centers have been early adopters and are publishing a regular flow of research on their experience.

But we need more numbers! Many trauma centers have considered, or actually adopted the use of REBOA already. However, we are still working out a lot of the nuts and bolts of this very invasive procedure. The group at University of Arizona – Tucson reviewed the national experience over a two year period by massaging the data in the Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) database. All Level I-III trauma centers in the US are required to report their experience to this large, detailed collection of trauma data.

They performed a retrospective review of REBOA vs non-REBOA patients matched for demographics, prehospital and emergency department vital signs, mechanism of injury, degree of pelvic disruption in pelvic fracture patients, solid organ injuries, and lower extremity fractures and vascular injuries. The studied outcomes were complications and mortality.

Here are the factoids:

  • Nearly 600,000 records were scanned for the two year period, and only 140 REBOA patients were identified (!)
  • These 140 REBOA patients were matched with 280 similar non-REBOA patients
  • Average age was 44 and average ISS was 29, 74% were males and 92% were blunt trauma
  • Overall complication rate was 7.4% and mortality was 25%
  • There was no difference in 4-hour or 24-hour numbers of blood, plasma, or platelets transfused
  • ICU and hospital length of stay were identical
  • 24-hour mortality in the REBOA group was significantly higher (36% vs 19%)
  • REBOA patients were significantly more likely to require amputation (5% vs 1%)

Bottom line: These are not great numbers for REBOA! What gives? There are a number of possibilities:

  • It’s a database study, so some key information might be missing
  • The numbers remain small, only 140 patients out of half a million records in two years!
  • There is no way to know how the patients were selected for REBOA
  • The experience and skill level at the hospital performing the procedure is not known
  • The interplay of other injuries and comorbidities is unclear
  • And many more…

BUT, the numbers are concerning. The early adopter centers have better outcomes, and this has prompted many centers with fewer eligible patients to jump on the bandwagon. We all need to remember that this is a brand new procedure and we are still learning the nuances. It is extremely important that every center performing REBOA contribute their results to a national registry. We still need to figure out which patients will benefit from it, how it should be used, and how we can minimize complications and maximize survival in our patients.

Reference: Nationwide analysis of resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) in civilian trauma. Session I Paper 5, AAST 2018.

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Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet – The Video!

I’ve written a lot about the downside of the electronic trauma flow sheet. Well, a picture (or video in this case) is worth a thousand words!

I found a nice video on YouTube in which a nurse demonstrates some of the basic features of the Epic Trauma Narrator. As you watch, pay particular attention about the need for significant back and forth between mouse and keyboard, and the amount of scrolling necessary to get to all the various fields that need to be completed.

And keep an eye on the time. Now granted, the speaker has to slow down a bit to explain things. But if you look at how little gets entered in 8 minutes, you’ll get my point!

For those of you out there who have already adopted an electronic product, or are thinking about it, please leave comments here or Tweet your comments/questions!

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The Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet: Oops! Now What Are My Options? Part 2

Yesterday, I discussed what to do if your hospital is thinking about switching to an electronic trauma flow sheet (eTFS). Today I’ll give you some tips on what to do if the cat’s already out of the bag and it’s already been implemented.

The number one priority is to show the impact of the eTFS on the trauma program. There are two components:

  1. Accuracy. The trauma program must measure the impact of the “garbage in” phenomenon on the performance improvement (PI) process. This is critically important, because bad data will decrease the quality of your PI analysis. For example, if the PI program is not able to determine that hypotensive patients are being taken to CT scan, patient harms could occur that are not detected. This could result in two bad things for your trauma program (and patients): unanticipated mortality and deficiencies during a verification visit.
    Be on the lookout for extraneous or impossible data points. Keep a list of information that is consistently missing. Use all of this information work with your hospital administration to find ways to make it better.
  2. Efficiency.  Your program must also find a way to measure the efficiency of abstraction by the trauma program manager, PI coordinator, registrars, or whoever is tasked with doing it. Keep track of the time needed to abstract a trauma activation chart vs a non-activation. This will give you an idea of the extra time needed to process the eTFS data. Or just clock in when starting eTFS abstraction, and clock out when finished. The amount of time will probably astonish you.
    Monitor average days to completion of registry entries, and look at the number of cases not fully abstracted by 60 days to see if there is a noticeable impact on your registry concurrency. Delays here are common in centers with high volumes of trauma activations, because the abstractors must spend an inordinate amount of time trying to pull information from the eTFS.

Once your hospital has taken the plunge and adopted the eTFS, it is very difficult to go back. Many centers are convinced that “this next update is going to make it so much better.” It never does! I have visited programs that have been tweaking their processes and reports for almost 8 years! None have been able to improve it significantly.

Your hospital administration will ultimately need to decide how to proceed, depending on how damaging the eTFS is to the trauma PI program and how much it will cost to continue to tweak it vs returning to a paper flow sheet. Good luck!

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The Electronic Trauma Flow Sheet: Oops! Now What Are My Options? Part 1

I’ve spent the last few days showing you the major problems inherent in using an electronic trauma flow sheet (eTFS). It boils down to Garbage In / Garbage Out and time.  It costs a lot of money, and weakens the otherwise strong trauma performance improvement process.

Here’s the real bottom line:

” A hospital using an electronic trauma flow sheet is paying a lot of money for a product that forces them to pay even more money for people to essentially transcribe inaccurate data back onto a paper trauma flow sheet.”

So what can be done about it? That depends on whether the eTFS has already been implemented. Today, I’ll discuss what to do if it’s still in the planning stages.

You’ve just heard that your hospital is considering switching to an eTFS. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Warn everyone you can, loudly! Use all of the ammunition you’ve read about here. Talk to your administrative contacts. Ultimately, your CEO needs to hear the concerns.
  2. Visit another hospital with similar trauma volumes using the same eTFS. Don’t just call them up and ask how it’s going. Actually go and visit, and watch during an actual trauma activation. How is the scribe doing? Can they keep up? Is there a “cheat sheet?” Then talk to the people who abstract the eTFS data. Ask how long it takes compared to the old days of paper.
  3. Consider a test implementation, and have two scribes, one using the eTFS and one using a paper sheet. After each trauma activation, objectively compare scribe performance, accuracy, and completeness. The eTFS cannot be allowed until they are equivalent (which I have never seen).
  4. During the test implementation, have two abstractors analyze the data, one using the eTFS and one using the paper sheet. How long does it take to find all pertinent demographics, sign-in times, primary survey, secondary survey/exam, procedures, vital signs flow, fluids & IVs, I&O? Was the patient hypotensive? What activities occurred during those times: procedures, drugs, CT scan? The eTFS cannot be allowed until they are equivalent (which I have also never seen).
  5. Continue to work with your hospital administration, showing them this data. Hopefully they will see the light and abandon this “great idea.”

But what if they don’t? Or what if you’ve walked into a program that is already using it? I’ll discuss that tomorrow.

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